If Domestic Tourism is to open the doors of travel in our country, why is the domestic traveller not showing any interest in taking a vacation?
Can the problem lie in a lack of integrated, safe and well-prepared guidelines for travel? Are the destinations, hotels and the domestic tour operators working in tandem to give a seamless, safe and enjoyable travel experience?
Are we creating a safe and inviting mental imagery to travel? Are we welcoming? Are we assuring the traveller that he is more than welcome and there are no flip flops on travel guidelines?
Well to answer these...and more.. questions, was a wonderful panel of experienced travel leaders at Today's Traveller Webinar in association with ADTOI - ‘India bets on Domestic Travel to bailout Tourism’.
This is one in a series of initiatives for the re-establishment of Tourism in India with the help of online digital initiatives by Today's Traveller.
The panel comprised of speakers, who individually have the experience, knowledge and keen eye for assessment to address these critical issues.
The noteworthy panellists were :
Sonia Meena, IAS, Addl. Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board
Ajay Bakaya, Managing Director, Sarovar Hotels Pvt. Ltd
Nikhil Sharma, Area Director, Eurasia Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
P P Khanna, President, Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India
Samir M.C., Managing Director, Fortune Park Hotels Ltd
The session was moderated by Kamal Gill, Managing Director, Gill India Group and Executive Editor Today's Traveller.
Key takeaways of the session were:
The current scenario is that of being careful, taking precautions and not putting yourself at risk.
We will learn to change our needs and taste according to COVID and we will see the change in the traveller too.
Promotional campaigns by MP Tourism with the tag line ''Intezaar Aapka'' showcase all-inclusive weekend packages, new itineraries and road trips.
MP Tourism Corporation is focussing not only its own accommodation, but is looking at capacity building and dialogues with stakeholders to assist them as and when required. It is collaborating with the private sector to rebuild tourism and promoting hotels, homestays and camping sites on social media.
MP Tourism has conducted a survey with an online partner which revealed that 39% of people want to travel after 6 months; and 29% after 2 months. The most popular destinations polled were Pachmari, Khajuraho and Kanha.
There are a lot of challenges faced by the industry. There is no confidence in the mind of the traveller. Fear is not only restricted to uncertainty but people are scared of getting infected by hotel staff, agent or transporter. There is also a fear of quarantine.
Guidelines are not clear. In fact, where are guidelines? Tour operators have not received any guidelines.
The fear of travel is coming from the way States are reacting. We have hill states which say compulsory quarantine. State governments have to start opening the borders.
As a country, we have gone through a huge curve. People are comfortable with branded hotels but the bigger challenge is on the journey and how to reach safely and without hassles.
The lack of air and rail transportation is a problem. We have to stick to driving through to destinations as Indian railways are not yet working. Air travel is not in full swing and it is not likely to be economically priced.
A hindrance to travel, other than fear, is lack of certainty and clarity from the Centre and State administration. Many impractical guidelines like carrying a COVID certificate which is 48 hours old and quarantine periods on reaching a destination; Or the 50-people limit in bigger banquet areas needs to be relooked at.
It has to be a joint effort to create confidence in consumer minds for travel. This is the right opportunity for all stakeholders to fill the vacuum: states should provide good packages to hotels, hotels should provide good packages to tour operators.... we all have to work together.
Let us work together to encash the demand created by the closure of inbound and outbound tourism. If we capture 30 per cent of this additional market, it is good enough start for the industry.
A joint assurance campaign to create a seamless travel experience for the traveller will be taken forward by destination, hotels and tour operators.
MICE will create confidence through word of mouth...50 people will talk to 500. MICE and Weddings will be back in the last quarter of 2020. Conferences will be more hybrid considering the social distancing norms
Drive-by holidays should start in a month to two. Winter should be good. Diwali and the holiday season should see an upturn.
So it will take month or two for things to normalise. We should see a decent amount of travel by August.